Luang Prabang to Boten, Laos Week 8 14th - 17th June 2011
Some of you may remember the first week of the shakedown trip in Aus. While stuck on a 15 degree slope the engine stopped. We put it down to the tank pick up being too short.

Wrong .... After the major service in preparation for this trip it got worse. And worse. Until eventually the engine was fuel starved after only 100km from tank full in the last week or so. Fortunately second tank is ok.

To confuse. The major service included draining some water out of the separator and replacing the manual prime pump which had a small leak.

This is a victorious photo of tank 1/3 full and 270km without fuel starvation. Happiness.

Basically diagnosed the problem as air getting into the system through either the water separator / filter or the steel pipe and connections crossing the chassis. Or both. The 270km was achieved with a pipe direct from tank to changeover valve.

Now we have a working fuel system we can methodically mess around with various combinations. Hopefully reintroducing the filter (its there for a reason). No chance of spares for quite a while.

Good news was that starting the following morning was also fairly instant. Pre-fix it would take a few turns to start on the bad tank.

Before we left Phonsavan we couldn't resist a photo of the Crater Restaurant.

Some businesses in the town have made a feature of old bombs. Including the tourist info center.

The Mine Action Group maintains an office in the town.

We retraced our footsteps (well drove back the way we came) to the main road North.

We've seen several different crops spread out on mats alongside roads. This is rice. 

We reached Louang Prabang.

Its a UNESCO World Heritage Listed town. With an international airport.

It seems that the center of town is almost completely guest houses and restaurants.

We climbed the hill in the center of town. Phou Si Mountain is at least 30m high.

In my youth a favourite walk was over some windswept hills at the top of which was a concrete box with a spy glass in the top and a slot for 1d coins.

It allowed a view of St Patrick's footprints.

On Phou Si is an imprint of Buddha's foot. About 2m long.

Beyond the reclining Buddha is the Wednesday Buddha, followed by Thursday Buddha, etc.
There's also a reminder of not so good times. An anti aircraft gun.
The view from the top of Luang Prabang is well worthwhile (we thought).

We needed the litre of water we'd carried up.

The ever present Mekong was on the other side of the hill.
At the bottom is the National Museum.
The main part of the museum is the former king's palace.
Some museums allow photography. Others don't.

The National Museum in Luang Prabang didn't.

There's a couple of photos of the outside below.

It was originally the palace of the local king, removed by revolution in 1960s. Its a large 10 or so roomed residence.

It contains material objects that the king, queen and children used. Thrones, bedrooms, reciption room, dining room are intact.

Couldn't find the loo or the kitchen.

Not a lot about the culture or how the power base was maintained. Lots of "do not touch" signage. Interesting nevertheless.

Hidden away in a display cabinet was one of those ivory carved concentric spheres (Chinese puzzle balls). The most we've seen previously was around 10 spheres (Mombasa 1976). According to guide this one had up to 30. Highest recorded, about 42 apparently.

The old town is well kept.

Its claim to fame is really the large number of well preserved wats.

We enjoyed the town itself. Relatively well looked after.

We had a fruit shake at one of the many riverside restaurants.

One of the few times we've simply stopped and relaxed.

Must do it more often.

The Mekong is quite turbulent, just downstream from a confluence.

There's a continual flow of people from one side to the other. No bridge, so all in ferries.

This mob weren't hungover, just forgot their umbrellas against the sun.

The boat has an inboard motor, unlike the longtails further South.

We figure that in the high season the town is full of tourists. Not so now, at the beginning of the rainy season.
The sign reads "Rices Shop for Interfering The Price And Correction The Price of state in Louangprabang Province".

It looked like a hardware store.

Over to you!

The riverside has a wonderful promenade. Mostly filled with restaurants. This bit didn't have restaurants and was not maintained. We were off the beaten track on our way to the market.
We parked at the Phaphonxsay Guest House.
A lady in the house in front was making these. Some sort of mango concoction. Set out to dry.
On the way out of Louang Prabang we were held up by the garbage collectors.
Just a truck and a load of people to fill it from the baskets of rubbish.
We stopped shortly after to fill up our now almost fully working right hand tank.
We were on our way to the Chinese border, to meet our guide the next day (18th June).

Just happened to come up behind this elephant transporter.

Fascinating watching them shift their balance as the truck went round corners.
We followed the River Ou for quite a while before climbing out of the valley.

We passed a hydro scheme in process of being built.

For some reason these ladies reminded us of very sedate Victorian ladies with parasols.

Probably the very slow progress they were making.

We passed a couple of trucks and this bus being repaired by the side of the road.

These people must have been there a few days. There was washing hung out.

Most breakdowns have been marked by broken branches on the road. This one put the old engine block to use.

They had another block at the rear of the bus they were rebuilding.

We started at about 375m altitude and climbed to over 1000m.

Endless hills.

Even the youngsters get to carry things.

Not sure what it is but its harvested from the side of the road.

Apart from in the towns the houses don't have running water. Most of the villages have a central tap somewhere. It seems often provided with the help of the aid agencies.

Having a wash or a shower is a very public affair. 

We only had to wait about 20 minutes. Those in front had been waiting much longer.

The road from Luang Prabang to Oudomxai was reasonably smooth, apart from broken up potholed bits, about every 200m. Our average speed was about 25 km/hr. Made for a very long tiring day.

North of Oudomxai the road improved. A very solid Chinese construction. These roadworks were about the last couple of km to complete the improvement. 

Going home from the fields. No spare hands for holding umbrellas. Just sensible hats.

Field implements over the shoulder, other things hung off the back.

Finally Boten. About 9 1/2 hours to drive 280 km.

This is a toll gate. We'll drive through it tomorrow on the way to China.

The Mekong River and the Journey So Far Week 8 17th June 2011

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